IFGH Conference 2014 Youth Volunteering Perspectives
As a part of our Key Correspondent team at the conference we were delighted to have two transition year students from Donabate Community College. Here, Rebecca Caffrey and Louise Evans reflect on their volunteer experiences and offer some fresh insights into their involvement at the conference in the form of journal excerpts.
5th, November, 2014
Today, we were lucky enough to take part in the Irish Forum for Global Health Conference at Trinity College Dublin. Having been asked by our journalism teacher if we would like to be key correspondents at this event, we were thrilled and totally up for the challenge. Especially since we are interested in learning more about global health.
On the Tuesday before the conference, we attended a writing workshop at RCSI, to get us ready for reporting at the event. Here, we met other Key Correspondents who were very friendly and helpful to us.
Walking into TCD on the cold Wednesday morning, we felt excitement for the two days ahead. It was great to be in TCD, as it was a little taste of college life for us! When we entered The Arts Block we were given our press passes which we had to wear for the two days. We have to admit that it felt very professional with our passes. We then entered the Global Health Village outside of the Edmund Burke Theatre. Here, we were greeted by lots of new faces, as well as everyone that we had met at the workshop the day before. We immediately felt welcomed.
The conference kicked off with the Opening Keynote address given by Sisonke Msimang: “Health, Violence & Poverty: Lessons from the Oscar Pistorius Trial”. Immediately, this talk had caught our attention when we first read through the conference agenda.
Msimang used the death of Reeva Steenkamp, who was killed by her intimate partner Oscar Pistorius, to open her discussion. She mentioned that most people did not care about Reeva, but rather, they wanted to know more about Oscar and the trial that was taking place. She emphasised how gender based violence (GBV) is tolerated in many countries, such as South Africa, and how she strongly believes that this should be unacceptable. Msimang continued to take lesser-known cases of GBV and explained them to her audience. She told the story of a woman who was killed by her ex-husband; stabbed to death in a taxi just after she had managed to get a restraining order on him. This particular case would have been long forgotten, had it not been for the work of local advocacy groups that brought it to the fore-front. As a result, the trial only took nine months to complete. By South African standards, this was considered ‘incredible’ and showed that progress can be made to raise awareness about these issues. Right now “in South Africa, every eight hours, a woman is killed by her intimate partner.” This was shocking to us. We were unaware that so many women were being killed by their partners and it really opened our eyes to how serious GBV is. Sisonke Msimang’s presentation was very powerful, as was her message that women deserve equal rights.
As the day went on, the atmosphere in the building was one of great excitement. After tea and coffee was served, we attended an interesting parallel session on ‘Partnership Panoramas and the ESTHER Alliance‘. Our favourite presenter in this session was Dr. Tony Ryan from Cork University Maternity Hospital. He opened this session with a story about a mother whose baby died during delivery. This death could have been easily prevented with the right knowledge and equipment. Using a doll, Dr. Ryan demonstrated how to get the baby’s lungs working with breathing equipment and techniques. It was a simple but effective demonstration, which he is now teaching to midwives across rural and low-resourced areas in Sudan. It was very interesting to think how many lives could be saved by something as simple as a breathing pump.
At the end of the first day, we both agreed, that the conference was really enjoyable and a brilliant experience. We could not wait for the next day!
6th, November, 2014
The second day of the conference started with an exciting talk about ‘The importance of partnerships in tackling the Ebola crisis‘. This talk was extremely interesting as it explained what Ebola is and how it should be dealt with, particularly for infected countries in Western Africa. The most important part of this presentation highlighted how Ireland’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) can support these infected areas. It was said that the HSE needs to send skilled personnel overseas, as well as to provide training to nurses and doctors dealing with infected patients. Partnerships are essential to tackling this deadly outbreak. We thought that it was a good idea that Ireland help tackle the Ebola outbreak, before it gets any worse.
Lastly, we attended the session on ‘Health Systems Strengthening‘. Philomena Omoregie spoke about creating partnerships with community health workers to promote male involvement in antenatal care. Omoregie told the room that where she comes from in Nigeria, most men do not get involved with pregnancy. Often men are absent during labour and delivery. However, the percentage of men supplying money for food and medication has increased. The intervention presented on, has helped minimize the perspective that reproductive health is solely the woman’s job, and create an acceptance for men to be involved in the birthing process too. The rest of the session discussed how essential partnerships are for strengthening health systems and improving the quality of maternal health services. This talk was great as it gave me a lot of insight into this topic.
The IFGH Conference was an incredible experience for us, as it was our first time at an event like this. The speakers were brilliant at getting their ideas across to the audience which made it all the more interesting. We would like to thank everyone involved for giving us this opportunity and we are so grateful to have been a part of it.
Rebecca Caffrey & Louise Evans